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Howard University partners with Amazon Studios to diversify entertainment industry

Amazon Studios is looking to build a bridge that will connect minorities to Hollywood. The tech giant’s entertainment branch has teamed up with Howard University to launch a program for students of color, both in their upper-class and graduate schools.

The two-semester program called Howard Entertainment, which is set to launch in spring 2020, will focus on giving students hands-on industry experience. Howard Entertainment, which will be located in Los Angeles, is open to Howard University students interested in various areas of the entertainment industry. Courses include project green lighting, public relations, marketing, entertainment law and finance, all are co-taught by faculty and industry leaders. 

“We have been looking at our workforce development opportunities through a slightly different lens. Rather than the regular internship model, especially for underrepresented and low income students — that model, especially for unpaid internships, and so on, is difficult, as well as the progression to matriculation isn't there,” Howard University’s President Wayne A.I. Frederick, told Yahoo Finance’s On the Move, adding that the school first started a similar program with Google called Howard West in which students were co-taught by Google engineers and Howard faculty. “Howard Entertainment is a progression of that philosophy on workforce development that I think gives some type of assistance to students who are underrepresented in industries that need diversification.” 

Howard University campus.

Frederick explained that the job market is fairly wide with endless opportunities but “a lot of times students are just unaware of those jobs,” Frederick explained. “So getting students from a wide variety of fields to get out there and to try to participate in that wider job market is the big call for this whole program.” 

Howard University has had a track record of placing graduates in the industry.

“We've placed a few behind the camera, like Bradford Young. And certainly, Debbie Allen — in director roles, Phylicia Rashad,” he said. Celebrities like “Empire” star Taraji P. Henson and “Black-ish” star Anthony Anderson are also Howard alum.

The main advantages of Howard Entertainment is two fold.

“One, is that the students get a more contemporary preparation for participation in the job market,” Frederick explained. “But the secondary impact which I think is just as critical as that, the faculty get an exposure to that contemporary experience as well. So that they can come back and disrupt the curriculum and really make sure that they’re giving students an opportunity.” 

Ralston Ramsay is a producer for Yahoo Finance’s On the Move. 

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